Updated: Feb 2, 2020
Either Stacy Livingston Vanbecelaere or Reed Livingston Bates—both are my daughters but I can’t remember which one—gave me a gorgeous bromeliad plant many years ago that had a gigantic red bloom. Even after the bloom died six months later, I kept that plant until the largest pup on the side was mature enough to root on its own.
A ‘pup’ grows out the side of its host. Hoping to grow another plant that would provide a second red bloom, I peeled off the pup and planted it (as I learned on YouTube) in a clay orchid pot with a soil-less medium, like peat moss or orchid bark. Then I nestled the pot between low bushes in a shaded flower bed of our back yard. Being a first-time bromeliad grower, I figured the plant would have regular watering from the sprinkler system, but I did not anticipate that it also would endure a lot of abuse like falling leaves, rambunctious dogs, thick coats of oak pollen, and 100-degree temperatures of Austin summers.
To be honest, the poor thing struggled. Sometimes, I’d find it knocked over on its side by our silly dogs or careless yard guys, so I’d right it and tell it I was sorry for the neglect. Other times, I’d have to save it from being smothered by oak pollen or leaves. Every now and then, I’d think I should just throw the poor thing away, but then I’d feel guilty and repot and feed it. I wasn’t totally incompetent: I did save it from freezing by bringing it inside several times each winter.
A Bloom Every One to Three Years
The normal time from bromeliad pup to bloom is between one and three years, but this bromeliad was going on more than five years, perhaps even up to ten. It’s been so long since I received this gift, I cannot recall. And, in spite of my poor care, part of me hoped the bromeliad would bloom, but year after year, there was nothing.
When we moved into a new home this past summer, I thought again about throwing it away. But I felt guilty and relocated it to our new house, where I eventually repotted it and gave it a spot on the back porch. It seemed much happier and showed off new, glossy green leaves.
This January, I brought it inside and put it on our breakfast table near the three orchids (and counting) that I keep alive because party guests think I must have a house gift, so they bring me orchids I cannot bring myself to kill, and so I repot them and hope they, too, will rebloom.
Lo and Behold, What's That I See?
This past Sunday, when I went to water my plants, I saw a red bloom peeking up from the center of my bromeliad! That's the tiny red spot you can see in the photo. I think my bromeliad decided to reward me because I finally started treating it well.
Sadly, as I also learned on YouTube, this new red bloom means my bromeliad is reaching the end of its life—gads, after so many years of struggle. I feel sorry that my pup is destined for the compost pile in six months to a year. But I hope to take a pup from this now-mature plant and start the cycle anew. I will name it Phoenix, and I promise to keep it in a temperate clime, near indirect light, give it nutrients, and hope it will bloom within a year or three.
Still, that’s a long time. My original goal in growing a pup was to enjoy the glorious color of bromeliad blooms on a regular basis. But it seems the trick is to have pups from numerous bromeliads growing in a sequence to reward you with a bloom every six months. Each bloom lasts about that long, so that would mean two plants each year, over possibly three years, adding up to six different bromeliads, and six different pups, along with my growing number of orchids (I can’t stop having parties).
Oh, dear. That’s a lot of bromeliads. I think the next step is a greenhouse, which would mean many thousands of dollars, not to mention approval by our HOA’s stern architectural committee. Then again, we could always move to Hawaii. Perfect climate for growing bromeliads, orchids, avocado trees, pineapple, Meyer lemons, what else could I grow?